Rabin Prasad Kalita
Karan was the sixth numbered only male child of ‘Lalit Niwas’. Fortuitously, he survived by his two eldest sisters. Three sisters died in a row during their infancy before his birth. Insufficient medical help, ignorance about health hazards in addition to the age-old irrational faith have increased the infant mortality rate in the seventies. If one dies, someone would be alive was a general thought, especially in villages. Moreover, a male child was given more importance than a girl. This was the reason behind having a plethora of children by Lalit too while anticipating at least a male baby.
A male child was considered as a future breadwinner and a caregiver to his parents when they become old. It’s a pious obligation in India’s patriarchal society. On the other hand, a girl was seen as a liability to her parents. She becomes a part of her husband’s household and expected to take care of her in-laws after the marriage. In those days, girls were deprived of identical rights to boys.
Karan had two other younger siblings, later on, named Rohan and Anita. Yet he was given an extra edge of importance being he a first male child in the home after a string of five daughters. After many years of penance of his parents, God was kind enough at length and blessed them to beautify their laps in a form of Karan.
Hence, he was enjoying much higher love and respect amongst all other children. This piece of the moon grew up tossing in various laps. This star of all eyes was fulfilled with all his needs even if others had to be denied. He was pampered in such a way that if he was kept on the head, there was a fear of eating by lice, and if kept on the ground, then there was a fear of eating by the ants.
The trend of giving him an extra edge of love was set by his mom and two of his elder sisters. They didn’t know one day this habit of giving added attention lovingly to one, in particular, may build up a detrimental character!
Even both of his younger siblings didn’t dare to protest for the facilities he had been entertained.
The two had adapted and grew up that way since their babyhood. Amenities meant for all were enjoyed first by Karan. To achieve anything he wanted, he could go up to any extent. Later on, he used it as an absolute right that implanted in his mind since his infancy. The word like negotiation was way beyond to understand by him. Everything he did arbitrarily and had no concern for his younger siblings.
Till he attained teenage, Rohan hardly wore new clothes except old ones used by his brother Karan once. Often Karan involved in spats having the lion part of any special palatable dish prepared at home. It seemed that he was entitled to it. He never tried to comprehend, there were other mouths too waiting for a morsel to taste. No one restricted him from such forced habits.
As the days were rolled by, he became callous on his younger ones. They were beaten ruthlessly by him for a small slip-up or sometimes without a valid reason as if he was self-manifested. This autocracy was not limited for a day but perpetuated as an everyday affair. Karan didn’t allow them to go out and play, but he stirred all around with no restrain. Both remained at home petrified of him, lest he beats.
Father Lalit stayed away from home due to his service constraint. During his leave at home, he observed Karan’s behaviour for not caring an amicable rapport with his younger ones. Definitely, it was not pleasing for dad. He didn’t like one’s monopoly and wished everyone should enjoy equal rights in his eyes.
Dad tried his best to persuade Karan to be cool with everyone. Hence, each time in his short span of leaves, Karan was counselled for being harsh on them. But the effect of his father’s teachings remained for a day or two.
Finally, Lalit decided to take Rohan along with him, intending to get him admitted to a school in his place of posting. Thus this separation between the two brothers mitigated the conflict.
Two years later, Karan also joined them shortly after he faced his matriculation exam thinking to stay all three of them together until his result was out. Moreover, it was like an outing for Karan to refresh his mind after a marathon exam. Solidarity prevailed between the brothers after a couple of years of physical severance. Both stayed merrily playing, roaming, and fishing together in the nearby reservoir when their dad was on day-long duties. Dad was happy seeing their mellifluous affection.
But the calmness of Karan didn’t linger long and started fighting again for a minor misconstrue with his brother. Rohan never retaliated back with a return punch to Karan except crying helplessly. Though he didn’t want his dad to know about all this happening, their neighbour uncle Sharma briefed their dad in detail.
Dad thought Karan would act wise and sensible by that time. His forecast proved wrong. This peevish guy never tried to correct his old nature. Hah, two brothers from the same womb, but with different characters! Dad didn’t know that his oblong character is a crop of giving him more importance since childhood.
It was upsetting for Lalit. Being helpless, he was in the sheer loss of his ideas, whether to punish his son physically or to scold him high and low to correct his temperament.
“Certainly there is a likelihood of spoiling his life as he grows up if he builds his attitude this way”, Lalit was murmuring, and alongside thought of a corrective measure too. But his every effort to correct him went in vain.
Karan’s unhealthy behaviour frustrated Lalit a lot. Incidentally, the relation between both got blurred gradually. They started disliking one another and slowly the two did not even like to talk facing each other. Bonding between Dad and son got cracked and steadily got wide.
Eventually, Lalit decided to let him go home and told to concentrate on his study there, lest he realizes and change his disposition. But, that never happened. Instead, Karan misconstrued himself that he was cornered by his dad and took the side of Rohan.
It was not that his dad didn’t try to initiate for shortening the gap that created over a period between them, but Karan never showed his interest in this. Thus they looked like strangers under the same roof for eight long years. Even the food was not served together at the same dining table. Both of them were dead set and uncompromising. But Rohan had a good rapport with his elder brother by then. Truly, he never took the things by heart for a longer period.
By the time Karan could grab a state government job after attaining his graduation. Simultaneously, his dad also got retired from the service and returned to his native village.
Lalit, a diehard believer of God was not a very high ambitious person. He didn’t do anything for his comfort but loved to share things with the poor and needy. Hence he couldn’t save much for the rest of his family.
Instead of staying in his ancestral home, Lalit chose to stay separately within the same premises. A cottage like a hermitage of twelve square feet in size was made out of thatch and bamboos with the help of Rohan. A beautiful seasonal and permanent flower bed was planted around it. A long tiny road with a striking flowery gate towards the entrance had made everyone astounded.
The bamboo walls around the cottage were coated with a mix of cow dung and soil. Then he used his skilled hands to draw some beautiful flowers and birds on walls around using naturally made colours. Those eye-catching surroundings made everyone to gaze a while whoever came to meet him.
Walking in the morning and chanting hymns of Geeta, was included in his daily routine. He was also a marvelous artisan who made a lot of spellbound art and crafts though he survived with multiple diseases for many years. Rohan was like a shadow of his dad and was busy extending with his constant hospitality.
Shockingly, one day all of a sudden, after coming back from a walk, Lalit took his last breath. Karan was away at his place of posting then. Sadly, due to the lack of communication in the village, Karan could not be communicated to attend his dad’s last rites.
Rohan reckoned his dad once said, “the disengagement of eyes may push away one’s all love even from the mind too, but abut of two souls attracts each other.” That’s a chord of love which was mismatched between Lalit and his son Karan.
The writer is an ex-air warrior and can be reached at [email protected]